We live in a world fascinated with consignment. Everyone loves to get a bargain on something they consider a luxury. Some however view this same situation as ‘used’ or second-hand. No matter how you slice it, just because something or someone has a history is no reason the next days can’t be their best days.
I often share candidly the fact that I was married before. I spent nearly 10 full years with the same woman while actively participating in raising three awesome children. To some, most of those years were spent in marital bliss, but quite often we were at each other’s throats. Add in the pressures apparent in our church organization and you have a dangerous cocktail. We realized mutually that the children were to be the main factor and we were thrust into a status as divorced. This was a transition in my life I had no point of reference to go by. But ready or not, this was my reality.
Many are concerned and even bewildered about how to navigate through the explosive field of divorce. The reality is, every situation is different and must be viewed as such. What you can find is a point of reference that helps guide you along the way. For example, here are a few things I learned that may empower you if this is the season you’re in:
- Remember no matter what, this is the person you chose to marry: Things may not be coming up roses at the moment, but at some point you professed your love to them. There is no need to go ‘Rambo’ now! This is just another evolution of yourself so go with the flow and prepare to move forward.
- Live for today, plan for a better tomorrow: You don’t want to speak words of hurt that you cannot retract and will be forced to live with later. Many throw caution to the wind and devastate someone, only to have to come back and ask forgiveness.
- If you have children, it’s ALL about the children now: That person that you feel you can’t stand is still your partner in parenting for the rest of your children’s lives. This means, no matter what happens, keep it civil for their sake. Nothing destroys your credibility with kids quicker than hearing the poisonous words from your broken relationship.
- Get your own friends to vent with: It may be very tempting to share ‘grown up’ stuff with your kids. Especially if the other parent is not living up to their end of agreements, but you must not leak this into the ears of the kids. Get your own support group, go vent with adults who can separate facts from feelings and offer assistance. But DO NOT use your kids as a sounding board.
Fast forward two and a half years and I decided to take the plunge again. This is uncharted territory for my new wife, who is a forty-year old African-American woman with no kids and never married. Many questioned did she really know what she was getting into? A man with three children from a previous marriage. Could she handle the ‘baby momma’ drama? And if so, why?
These were all questions we discussed together, and along our journey we began to see a pattern for both our successes and failures. We learned that our discussions and even arguments were leaving clues of what to do, and not do. If we could simply identify these markers, we could live a life of peace, on purpose! Here are a few things we found helpful:
- The lines of communication have to be clearly open: We found that the bulk of our disagreements came when either of us was not clear on a particular thing. It sounds simple, but it can be very difficult to remember that what you mean and what you say have to line up. If not, you leave your partner confused.
- Make sure that outside influences do not ruin the relationship: This was a big one for me. There were times where my actions sent the signal that someone else’s opinion was great than my wife’s. I totally missed that the leading language of love is “affirmation’. And without it, she felt unsafe. When your partner doesn’t feel safe, the foundation of the union is shaky.
- Make the investment in new customs and traditions: When my wife and I began our new relationship, we realized we both came from different family dynamics. Even the locations of our families were on opposite ends of the states. We decided very quickly that we would develop our own holiday rituals and celebrate our own way. Instead of wrestling with where are we going, and who we would spend time with, we planned fun things for us to do. This allowed us the time needed to really bond as a ‘blending family’.
There are many obstacles ahead of anyone who has had the misfortune of divorce. No matter how mutual, divorce is a tremendous thing. It affects both families, and children if present. If not handled, and time allotted to properly process the event, it can leave deep scars. I am grateful I sought coaching and guidance from qualified individuals to help me navigate. Although I experienced a divorce, I never lost hope in the institution of marriage. I still believe there is life, after any loss.